Gas victims brave dry taps in filthy colony
Hindustan Times (Bhopal Live), 22nd January 2001


BHOPAL JANUARY 21: Photographers muffled their faces with handkerchiefs as they clicked away at human excreta flowing onto the ground from sewage lines.

The journalists blanched at stray pigs feasting on the discharge.

Welcome to Karond - a housing colony for the gas victims' widows and their children. its stated objective was to provide gas victims a better environment, help them forget their horrendous past to make a fresh beginning. The colony seems to have come a long way, but nowhere apparently in achieving even a part of its aims.

Families, 1,500 of them, lead a daily existence amidst foul smell, choked drains, dry taps and water supply lines running into sewage lines.

Rafiq a resident says: "You can still live with dirt and filth but not without water. My wife has to go more then one km away to fetch water and only when residents of private colonies have enough do they allow us to take water," he said.

Ironically, there is a water tank right in front of the colony. But it has no water supply as the municipal corporation has not deputed anyone to open and shut the valve.

In Fact HIG houses of the colony, allotted to gas victims later, have not been transferred to the municipal corporation for maintenance.

Other pockets of the colony, mostly LIG houses, have been handed over to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) for maintenance but here again the water supplied to houses could contain human excreta as the drainage lines intersect water supply lines at many places, thus contaminating drinking water.

Those who found better alternatives have left the colony deserting more than 1,000 houses.

But, hundreds, without the same options, are forced to stay back in such miserable conditions.

In the summer of 1998, eight people died of cholera in the colony but it tailed to rouse the authorities, who have forgotten the colony after allotting the houses to the gas victims with much fanfare.

When it came to power supply, the gas widows with no renumerative jobs in hand had no money to pay the hefty electricity bills, which have started pouring in from the electricity board of late. And, most of them stopped paying their bills.

The board officials for their part took away the meter and cut the connection.

As a result most of the houses, which are still using power are in fact stealing it from the main line.

The latest jolt to the hapless widows is the property tax notice received from the BMC.

Eighty-year-old Rambo Bai, who lost her husband Shaligram in the gas tragedy, lives here alone after her son deserted her. So miserable is the expression on her face that you cannot look at her for more than a second.

She survives on Rs 150 destitute pension and the BMC has slapped a notice on her to deposit Rs 180 as property tax and she thought journalists could help her get an exemption from it and was pleading therefore.